The Mobile Latino: Catch Me if You Can

The Verizon iPhone is finally here, causing a lot of buzz and conversation around this expected news. For marketers targeting Latinos, this might be even bigger news, considering that currently 24 percent of all iPhones have been activated by Hispanics.

We all know that Hispanics are very mobile and are always on the go. For these reasons, cell phones are becoming a very powerful tool for them to stay connected to their social world. The use of cellular phones alone rose 26 percent from 2006 to 2010 among Latinos, compared to 18 percent of the general population. This notable increase shows that Hispanics are catching up: cellular phone penetration among Latinos has reached 82 percent, which is almost even with 84 percent of the overall population.

This is consistent with the growing trend of Hispanics cutting landlines and switching to mobile phones as their main source of communication. Some experts attribute this to the recession. But actually, when we take a deeper look at how Latinos use their mobile phones, there are many other reasons beyond the economy that are driving this behavior.

There are three key attributes driving the mobile Hispanic:

  1. Social connectivity: Mobile applications have changed the role and landscape of marketing – and Latinos are all over it.
  2. Fun experience: For Latinos, mobile is not about efficiency and multitasking, but about ubiquity and expanding their experiences.
  3. Open to innovation: Contrary to many marketers’ beliefs, Latinos are more receptive to new ways of using their mobile phones.

Overall, online Hispanics are more interested in the mobile Web than the mainstream population. They feel that their mobile phone is the gateway to their social world, making extra features more appealing.

Mobile Is Making Connectivity Fun

Hispanics are taking advantage of every feature their mobile phones have to offer to enhance their lives. Thirty-five percent of Hispanics say mobile browsing is their favorite pastime, and 41 percent of women agree that surfing the Web with a mobile device is one of their favorite activities. Sixty-four percent of Hispanics who own a cell phone use it to send text messages, versus 56 percent of the overall U.S. population. Twenty-two percent of Hispanic adults who own a cell phone use it to download or listen to music, vs. 15 percent of U.S. adults with cell phones.

Hispanics are heavy gamers, and mobile phones are another portal to this pastime. Hispanics are the most likely of any racial group to have done gaming in the past several months; this is consistent with a higher penetration of portable gaming consoles (just ask Nintendo DS – Hispanics represent its number one buyers). So it’s no surprise they are more receptive to branding and product placement in video games, making it an ideal target for advertising efforts.

In the ever-evolving “app” world, Hispanics are in no way falling behind – 24 percent of Hispanic mobile users have downloaded apps. This indicates that they are actively seeking ways to enhance their experiences, which for marketers means another avenue to interact with the Hispanic consumer. A great example is the Univision iPhone World Cup app that became the 13th most popular free application in the U.S.

Taking the Driver’s Seat

When it comes to technology, Latinos are the most active segment in using components such as dashboard systems that incorporate smartphones, iPods that can be used through voice activation, or touch screens, which are all very attractive car features for Latinos.

Ford is a great example of a brand that has been very successful using mobile to target this influential market segment. “We’ve been very pleased with the amount of traffic [Ford’s Spanish-language mobile site] has seen,” said Trisha Habucke, digital marketing manager of mobile at Ford, as cited by “It has neared or exceeded traffic of the general market.”

The Last Will Be First

Unbanked consumers make up 25 percent of the total population with a high incidence of Hispanics. However, according to a research study by Fiserv survey, 60 percent of Latinos replied that they were interested in using at least one mobile banking service if it was offered. This sparks the idea that mobile banking might be a way to connect with these overlooked customers.

Take the case of U.S. Bank – it just launched a mobile application for its AccelaPay Visa, which offers cardholders convenient free access to their accounts anywhere and anytime. Just by using their mobile phones, AccelaPay cardholders can check their account balance, pay bills, receive account alerts, and view mini-statements on-the-go. U.S. Bank’s approach completely aligns with 40 percent of Latinos checking their account balance online and 15 percent paying their bills online – according to Mintel.


There is no doubt that mobile marketing overall is becoming an important medium for reaching the dynamic Hispanic population. Latinos are quickly becoming trendsetters in their own right, and see their mobile phones as portals to enhancing their lives. Their fascinations with new technologies that can help them stay socially connected and heighten their everyday experiences are quickly becoming a priority.

Latinos may be perceived as falling behind in adopting the latest technology; however, mobile places Latinos in a whole different playing field. This is the time for brands to follow their lead by seeking ways to reach this content-hungry segment.

Good luck trying to catch the mobile Latino, if you can.

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